A new Major League Soccer team in Miami is looking like more of a reality after David Beckham and the owner of Bolivia soccer club Bolivar, Marcelo Claure, visited stadiums and met with key political leaders on Saturday.
Beckham, whose contract with the L.A. Galaxy contained an option to create a new team for $25 million, looks poised to link up with Bolivian billionaire Claure to purchase a new MLS team. The duo toured two potential Miami-based venues for the team on Saturday.
The first stop was the 75,000 seat Sun Life stadium, home to the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. The stadium has hosted several international friendlies throughout the years and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross recently set up a soccer division.
After meeting with Ross and Dolphins chief executive Mike Dee, Beckham and Claure visited the 20,000 seat stadium at Florida International University, where Claure is a member of the board of trustees and has previously lobbied the idea of housing an MLS club.
Following the visit Beckham spoke positively about the chance of owning a club in Miami. “I think bringing an MLS team here to South Florida would be… it’s exciting,” Beckham told CBS4 News television. “I think Miami fans are very passionate about their sports and very passionate about winning and of course, it would have to be success but it’s definitely exciting.”
During their visit Beckham and Claure also met with key political figures including the mayor of Miami-Dade County, Carlos Gimenez, and Miami Dade County commissioner Jose ‘Pepe’ Diaz. Gimenez handed Beckham the keys to the city while Diaz stressed there was real backing for a team in Miami. “There is huge political support,” Diaz said. “It is not only from the county, it’s 100 percent support from the municipalities, the mayors and the commissioner, the counselors from the different cities, they are also extremely supportive.”
Beckham and Claure also met with Jose Sotolongo, the executive director of the Miami-Dade Sports Commission, who pushed equally hard for MLS to return to Miami. “We know that our community can support not only the international soccer (friendlies) that have been coming to Miami for a while now, but that it would support an MLS franchise,” Sotolongo told Reuters. “The city of Miami has a very international fan base and a very soccer savvy fan base. This is the kind of ownership group that would electrify the community and hopefully we will get good news,” he said.
Becks even took time to meet with the supporters group, “MLS Miami Bid”, which has been campaigning for a team to come to the city. “I feel really good about it, it looks really positive,” said Julio Caballero, spokesman for MLS Miami Bid. “It is pretty much down to Beckham now, I have heard he will make his decision inside 90 days,” he said. “Beckham will bring something spectacular here – not just his name, but a class organisation to Miami. Claure knows how to run a club. The two together is just what Miami needs for soccer.”
While Beckham and Claure seem quite keen on Miami the pair are said to have other locations in mind as well. Stay tuned to see where they head next.